You can also read this post on the new site here.
Joining the Robin Williams honorary bandwagon? I’m happy to! Dead Poets Society is one of my favorite and most influential movies, so it seems obvious to look back at it now in the late aftermath of Williams’ death. The movie works for me on many levels, mainly in its depiction of a good and unusual teacher, but also by showing an authoritative, limiting and cruel society and the effects it has on its young people. This way the film inspired me in many ways, not just for becoming a teacher. I must have seen it the first time early, when I was around 11 or 12 and I watched it again and again. What’s really a shame is that in schools, the novelization is often read when there is no reason on earth not just to use the movie. Curiously, this is one of the few movies where I really disagreed with Roger Ebert (who got me into movies so much more than I already was, so I’m a big fan of his), who called it “manipulative” and full of “platitudes.” Reading his review makes you wonder how he even came up with two stars. I get what he says and maybe even understand how you could view the movie this way, but to me, it’s just a great inspirational movie. Here’s why.
Continue reading Our Life Is a Movie: Dead Poets Society (1989)
Look at them. No one here under their free will, even we sometimes want them to believe that. But they’re not. No one would like to do this voluntarily. But now they’re here and I’m here, so we have to make the best out of it. No, I have to make it the best for them, because that’s my job.
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Look at them! I can’t wait to start! They’re young and motivated and want to learn something. And I’m the one who is allowed to teach them. Did I mention that I can’t wait?
Continue reading Teacher Looks at Class (II)
Look at them. I mean, just look at them. They’re so annoying. Why am I doing this again? For them? They don’t care. They don’t want to learn anything. They’re lazy. I get tired just looking at them.
Continue reading Teacher Looks at Class (I)
Fack ju Göhte is the most successful film in Germany in 2013. Does that mean anything? Probably not, as success is rarely in conjunction with quality when it comes to movies (or anything). The movie is something like a school comedy, which might be a reason why it is so beloved by students since they enjoy laughing about school. But the plot is… you can’t even call it absurd because it so obviously is just an excuse for the movie to get a bank robber into a school posing as a teacher – that’s the “gimmick” of the movie and the plot behind it (that his bait money is buried under the school) is not believable for a second. Does the movie work? It’s difficult for me to say. My expectations were very low and the movie was better than I had thought. But it wasn’t great. It has its moments but the style of comedy, a sort of constant noisy, over-the-top, aggressive humor, is hard to bear at first, but you get used to it. The characters are mostly clichés, but they are allowed to have some depth at times and even some growth, more or less. Some of the humor works too. The movie strangely grows on you over time, if you don’t think about it too much. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it didn’t hurt to watch it.
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Every year every teacher and student dreads the last weeks before the holidays. Once the grades are made, all potential motivation vanishes and everyone just waits until it’s over. This is interesting because it shows the pretense we hold up that we learn important things in school. If they were so important, it wouldn’t matter if there are grades or not, but the last weeks always unmask how everything is governed by grades, thereby taking away any interest students could have in a subject. But that’s a different story.
Continue reading I Want to Hear What You’ve Got to Say
When I think of political music, I either think of the 60s and 70s, Gang of Four or hip-hop (at least some of it). I could think of Morrissey and the Smiths but it’s not the first thing on my mind, since Morrissey is more known for making political statements outside his music nowadays and Meat Is Murder and Margaret on the Guillotine are still in the minority compared to his other songs. So I was somewhat surprised to listen to his new album and realize, hey, for an old man he sure has some statements left to make. Maybe I’m just so surprised because his last albums didn’t feature many political songs in comparison. But here is his new album, after years of delay, and its title already makes some allusions that make you think: World Peace Is None of Your Business.
Continue reading Music Box: Morrissey’s “World Peace Is None of Your Business”
What happens if you tell students that they can leave if they want to? If you tell them that they should only stay if they are really interested in the subject matter? If you tell them there will be no consequences for them, no bad marks, no hard feelings? What happens if you give them the freedom of choice?
Continue reading Freedom of Choice
Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go is a tricky novel. It seems almost innocent in describing the lives of its three main characters which live an uneventful life in a boarding school and how they grow up. But beneath that unexciting surface lurks a dark story about rearing children in ignorance, teaching them to pretend and making them believe in authority at all times. Yes, the book also deals with cloning and what makes us human, but this has been dealt with in enough other books and movies. What fascinates me about that book is the way it portrays education and society but also the way it incorporates the three things I tell my students too often about: ignorance, authority and pretense. I just finished reading the book in my main class and was happy to see it was received (mostly) well, because I wasn’t sure students would find it appealing. But now I know that I would read it again and while working on it, I was surprised how much the novel has to offer and how thought-provoking it is. It has a lot of aspects to discuss and I want to try to get at most of what I deem important, which will still be a lot. For structure’s sake, I will follow the three-part division of the book. Continue reading Book Report: Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go (2005)
I tried my experiment again recently. Two different students tried to be teacher for a whole lesson. They are generally good students, they had a plan and motivation, so what could go wrong? Yes, everything! At the end of the lesson, they felt depressed, angry and frustrated. They did not understand what had happened. No one was listening to them. They lost control quickly. Their plan didn’t turn out as they thought.
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